It’s NBA draft week, and for the first time in a long time, the Timberwolves sit out of the lottery with the 19th overall pick in the first round. They also have three second round picks, including a good number 40, which gives them a lot of flexibility ahead of Thursday night’s show.
That’s one of the reasons the Wolves went out and made a big pick for new President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly. One of his biggest strengths is drafting, especially when it comes to picking in the bottom half of the first round. The Wolves know they need to improve their roster if they’re going to take a step forward in the Western Conference next year, and that elections and trades are coming (our Shams Charania reports that the Wolves have discussed with Clint’s Hawks Chapel). there is a great opportunity in and around the draft to do just that.
Given that the key to the Wolves’ success on Thursday will be identifying talent lower on the message boards than the top seven or top eight where we’re used to seeing them pick, this is the perfect time to tap into experience. Athletic NBA draft guru Sam Vesenye. He is a tireless worker, well versed in the players expected to be available in 19th place and above. So instead of speculating about the way forward, we went straight to one of the most knowledgeable drafting minds on the planet.
We have a lot to do, so let’s get started.
John Kravchinski: Well, Sam, there are indeed 10,000 lakes in Minnesota, but in June we are in uncharted waters. Wolves are not in the lottery! And not because they made a bad decision about defending a trade that looks worse every day, but because they really were good this season!
Most Wolves fans (and maybe one or two Wolves writers) are used to studying some of the best draft picks, big names with high expectations. Minnesota has the 19th pick in the first round this year, so it takes more than the occasional use of March Madness to identify some prospects to keep an eye on when the Wolves hit the clock.
That’s where you enter.
First, can you tell us about this draft in terms of talent in the 15-30 range? In these parts, we obviously know Chet Holmgren well. We saw Jaden Ivey and Keegan Murray in a Big Ten game. These guys will be long gone by the time the Wolves pick. How do you see the depth of this draft being revealed?
Sam Spring: Yes, that’s a great question, John. I have a fairly large tier from #10 to #21; then I have another larger level of players from #22 to #40s. Having said that, I’m not necessarily a big fan of the drafting area the Wolves are in, and I don’t hate the idea of them exploring a down trade or a trade, depending on who’s available and what potential. suggestions will look. Last season alone, the Rockets moved two future first-round picks to No. 16, as they did this season. If a team is enamored with one player — like the Rockets did last year with Alperen Schöngün — and offers a deal that will give the Wolves real future value, I would be more willing than usual to turn it down. draft area. I would also be willing to attach this choice to trades for veterans of the correct rotation.
For what it’s worth, we have some evidence that teams falling behind in the first round are ready to move. We have already seen peaks #26 and #30 move, and there is a good chance that several more will move in the coming days. I don’t really like to call a draft “good” or “bad” because people who evaluate on the side of the team really only need to find one guy they like, make the right decision, and the draft can be an overwhelming success for them. . But I think the evaluators on the team have more questions about this draft than last year.
Kravchinsky: In your first tryout draft, Notre Dame defenseman Blake Wesley went to the Wolves. Do you still see it as a viable option? Has anything changed for you in this assessment?
Spring: I have Wesley a little lower on my board. I absolutely see a world where the Wolves still look to him as an interesting option to grow long term in the backcourt as they figure out how they want to build this unit around Anthony Edwards. Wesley has an amazing combination of athleticism and power as a ball carrier and can create his own shot from isolation and screens. The question with him is whether he’s going to shoot well enough to consistently be effective in the NBA. If the Wolves really want to buy and trust their developers and take on someone that I consider to be a bit of a big project, Wesley could run number 19.
Kravchinsky: The Timberwolves clearly need size next to Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt. Brandon Clark just crushed them in the playoffs. Understanding that teams typically have trouble drafting out of necessity, Connelly said this can be a deal breaker if they have multiple leads priced the same. I’m looking at someone like E. J. Liddell from Ohio State. Like defense and intensity, but at 6-7 is he big enough to play a role in the NBA?
Spring: I really love Liddell, especially next to Towns and Jayden McDaniels. McDaniels is so great at all kinds of action and frustrating opposing teams by defending the ball by using his length to do a little damage to the ball. But sometimes he can be overcome by stronger wings, who can take the desired positions, taking him to the post. Liddell has the strength to match these guys a little better. He is also an absolutely terrific weak edge defender. He is an underrated vertical athlete who has blocked more than two shots per game this season, most of which were assists. When looking for someone to pair up next to Towns in the playoffs, someone like Liddell could work as long as his jump shot is broadcast – something he’s improved a lot over the past year. but I have a few small questions about it due to how flat his shot is in terms of trajectory when he goes outside the NBA 3-point line.
Kravchinsky: The guy I’ve been watching all year and intriguing me about the Wolves is the great Duke Mark Williams. Do you agree that it will fit? It seems like it would be a small miracle for him to be there at number 19, right?
Spring: I’m definitely a big fan of Mark Williams and I’d be surprised if he was number 19 there. I just really don’t like the idea of taking on a big one who can’t switch to perimeter players in the first round. when you already have cities. I don’t really believe that Williams and Towns will be able to play together on the court in the playoffs, because such lineups will be sorely lacking in mobility. In my opinion, if you pick number 19, the guy you pick should at least have a chance to play in decisive lineups in those big moments. It’s not the worst thing in the world if the guy you pick ends up as a backup in this place; I just think it’s too easy to find backup centers that can eat minutes on the open market. I would probably turn down Williams if I was for the Wolves, even if I really liked his value if he was on the board.
Kravchinsky: The Wolves also have three picks in the second round. Connelly told me they are optimistic about the options they may have in 40th place. Is there a name or two Wolves fans worth reading about?
Spring: I agree with Connelly on this, for what it’s worth. I expect there will be some breakout second round picks this year, if only because I think there are quite a few interesting high net worth young lads who may not have had the best year as freshmen last season in college, but who also have good pedigrees and may have been affected by the pandemic. Peyton Watson and Josh Minott stand out as interesting potential athletes if they make it to 40th place. quarterback Trevor Keels or Marquette’s prolific sophomore Justin Lewis will end up on the board at that spot. There’s actually some depth to the draft in terms of home runs, upside swings in the second round.
Kravchinsky: I mean, Nikola Jovic should be selected, right? He’s either #19 in Minnesota or #21 in Denver, right?
Spring: Haha, well, Connelly was definitely successful in picking up Nikola Joic from Serbia, who played for Mega and was introduced by European agent Misko Rajnatovic, right? There are certainly some teams that rate Jovic so highly and believe he has significant growth potential due to his ability to handle the ball at 6ft 11in, pass at a high level and shoot the ball. I’m slightly below him because I don’t know who he will successfully defend at the next level, and he wouldn’t be on my board if I made a pick at this pick. But there are enough raters out there who are fans of his combination of size and skill level, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Connelly pulled the trigger.
Kravchinsky: Finally, what are your impressions of hiring Connelly in general? The Timberwolves brought him in to help build around Edwards and Towns, and he appears to have done well in the Denver draft, especially with non-lottery and second-round picks. Everyone has their hits and misses, but what do you think makes him good at finding players who can contribute in these places?
Spring: I’m a big fan of Tim Connelly. He is talking about the right things from an organizational point of view. Talk to everyone who worked for him in Denver and you’ll find that he treats people with respect and treats them like real people – from players to coaches, front office staff and scouts. He cares about allowing bands to organically grow and develop together while also embracing and creating a family atmosphere that is absolutely essential to win in a small market like Minnesota. I was stunned that Denver was willing to let him go at any cost.
In terms of what made him successful in the draft? When I spoke to Connelly last year to write this story about Nikola Jokic, a couple of things struck me. First, Connelly is a big fan of making good people. He specifically mentioned that the archetype they really liked about Denver was “IQ, skill and a guy who doesn’t have a huge ego.”
Secondly, and it follows not only from that conversation in the tape, but also from other conversations with people who were in Denver, I love how much trust and faith he puts in the people who work for him. After all, he is the one who makes the decision. But I think that his humility and willingness to listen to every point of view is absolutely necessary to make the right decisions. He wants all the smart people he’s hired to be able to dive into the details and lay out all the information, and then, as a team, the front office will summarize it and make a decision. He makes decisions together. It’s not about him. For every question he answers, he answers as “we”. I think such a robust process is a critical ingredient in being a good decision maker.
(Top photo by E.J. Liddell: Geoff Burke/USA Today)